Walter Anderson: The Extraordinary Life and Art of the Islander

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A new book and film about artist Walter Anderson debuted in November 2021. The film, “Walter Anderson: The Extraordinary Life and Art of the Islander,” aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

Description of the Film

The film includes extensive interviews with each of Walter Anderson's four children as well as images of his paintings and art projects and footage of Horn Island and its wildlife. The project is produced by Robert St. John and directed by Anthony Thaxton.

John Anderson, Walter’s oldest son, talks about his dad’s boat and how local fishermen called his dad the Horn Island Hermit because he lived under that boat. “Last year he was bitten by a moccasin out on the island and a miracle happened: the snake lived,” John quips in the film.

Daughter Mary Anderson Pickard calls her father’s work “inexhaustible” and said “he really was a genius.” She describes: “My father was one of the giants” of the Earth.

Son William Anderson also “realized the genius that he was. He really found himself when he started theses trips to Horn Island.”

Leif Anderson, his youngest daughter said of her father, “That giant you see in the museum and in the various exhibits and in all the books couldn’t have existed if Walter Anderson hadn’t been allowed to be himself – his whole self.”

“He lived an extraordinary life, a dramatic series of journeys filled a passion for experiencing nature through his process of art making.”

“He made the world a more beautiful place.”

Description of the Book

Robert St. John and Anthony Thaxton have produced a gorgeous companion piece to their documentary film. Lavishly illustrated, this book presents the amazing world of Walter Inglis Anderson in a thoughtful progression of his art, and through poignant stories and observations by his wife, Sissy, and their four children: Mary, Billy, Leif, and John (who wrote the foreword). Walter Anderson: The Extraordinary Life and Art of The Islander contains numerous rare photographs, artwork never before seen, and paintings lost through Hurricane Katrina. It’s the story of an extraordinary man called “America’s Van Gogh.”

Though featured in numerous books and exhibitions (including a 2003 retrospective show at the Smithsonian Institution on the centennial of his birth), Walter Anderson has not yet achieved his deserved place in American art history. This book shines light on all the facets of Anderson’s artistic output and presents a thoughtful progression of his life and art. With complete access to the Anderson family archives and the vaults of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, this comprehensive volume brings together much of the artist’s finest work as well as paintings and photographs that have never been published. The book is an eye-opening and inspiring work to be treasured.

“This book is essential for anyone interested in my father.”  - John G. Anderson

The Art Exhibition

The exhibition, “The South’s Most Elusive Artist,” runs March 15, 2021 – January 31, 2022 at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) in Ocean Springs, Miss.

The South’s Most Elusive Artist includes more than 85 works by Walter Inglis Anderson from WAMA’s permanent collection and that of the Family of Walter Anderson. The exhibition commemorates the Museum’s 30th anniversary, and includes rarely seen watercolors, block prints, wood carvings, ceramics, and sketches alongside some of Anderson’s most recognizable and iconic works.

While many exhibitions are organized by time-period, style, artistic influence, or a specific body of work, The South’s Most Elusive Artist approaches Walter Anderson’s life and art through the concepts of space, form, color, and shape.

For Anderson, art was a way to understand and interact with the world around him. Space, form, color, and shape were the tools used by the artist to realize a connection to nature.

Walter Anderson, born in New Orleans in 1903, lived a life of discovery worthy of the fairytales and adventure stories he loved. When he died in1965, he left behind a monumental record of his life through art. By the time the Walter Anderson Museum opened in 1991, Anderson had become a cultural patron saint of Mississippi and the Gulf South.

Visit the Walter Anderson Museum of Art online at:

Find out more about Ocean Springs, MS at:

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